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Golf courses clean up contaminated water

Pharmaceutical products filtered out of recycled water by turf.

Contaminants in recycled water used for irrigation can be filtered out by turf  

The Journal of Environmental Quality recently published the results of a two-year field study which demonstrates the ability of golf course grasses to breakdown an array of pharmaceutical and personal care products.  The project assessed the fate of 13 pharmaceutical products in recycled irrigation water applied to the fairways of four golf courses in the southwestern United States.  Three of the 13 compounds tested were the most commonly found in drainage water, representing nearly 80% of all reportable detections.  The golf course sites varied by climate and soil type but were similar regarding turfgrass management.

The results showed that the concentration of pharmaceutical compounds was substantially lower after moving through the turf and soil, with the amount leaching out of the rootzone less than 250 mg per ha.  The percent reduction for products in the drainage water coming off the golf courses was 100% in 22 of 52 cases, 98 to 100% in 27 of 52 cases, and 73 to 94% in 3 of 52 cases (a case defined as a specific compound measured at a specific site).

This research, initiated by the Northern California Golf Association, was supported by Water Environment Research Foundation and the Water Reuse Research Foundation, with additional funding provided by 28 water or sanitation agencies, and other interested agencies or organisations, including the USGA.

Find more information on this study and the filtering effect of turfgrass here.

The European Union has produced a list of 45 priority substances that pose a significant risk to, or via, the aquatic environment at Union level.  This sets out the Environmental Quality Standards and maximum allowable concentration for these substances in water. The list appears in a Directive amendment in the Official Journal of the European Union which confirms the EU policy on the environment as being based on the precautionary principle and on the principles that preventive action should be taken, that environmental damage should, as a priority, be rectified at source and that the polluter should pay.  There are a number of active ingredients which will be familiar to golf course managers on this list, and the document is available here.

Spanish Members of the European Parliament have been asking questions in the Parliament suggesting that irrigation should not be permitted in river basins or sub-basins where demand exceeds or is close to the supply of renewable water resources and that fines should be applied for pollution caused by the application of fertilisers and pesticides.

All of this activity at the EU is a clear indication that land users, including golf courses, are now most definitely in the spotlight when it comes to water use for irrigation and potential pollution from the use of fertilisers and pesticides.